Monday, May 17, 2010

Tyson Gay Highlights Hot Weekend


The face of track and field is Usain Bolt – he’s double World and Olympic Champion and WR holder in the 100 & 200 meters. Until he’s beaten everyone else will be compared to him. Tyson Gay’s performance Sunday in Manchester say’s he is definitely comparable, and must be in the conversation. I’m sure by now you’ve heard the final time – a sizzling 19.41 for a straight 200 meters that set a new WR for a straight run of the distance. the first thing I heard several people say was, “but Bolt’s record is 19.19 so what’s the big deal about 19.4”. Well let’s take a look at the 19.41.

First off, this was Tyson’s first sprint race of the year – having run two 400’s earlier. Not too shabby for an opener. For comparison,  Bolt opened at 200 this year in 19.56, and last year Tyson opened at 19.58. But a better comparison to Bolt lies in the 150 WR that Bolt set last year at the same meet. Looking at that race and comparing Tyson:

  Tyson Gay (-0.4 mps) Usain Bolt (+1.1) mps
100 9.88 9.91
150 14.41 14.35
200 19.41 NM

Looking at them side by side on the same venue and approximately same time of year they are eerily similar. Some will say that Bolt had more wind, and he did. But frankly you run what you run and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is what your time was and how you do when you race each other. I’m not a fan of recalculating times (far more variables than simply wind reading and altitude) so as I look at the numbers as they are they are nearly identical through 150 meters give or take a few hundredths, which says that Gay CAN compete with Bolt over the 200 meter distance. And dare I say, once again, that while Bolt has been on an incredible run these past two years, he has not had to deal with Gay over this distance since Sept of 2007.

We will see what happens when they step on the track against each other, but suffice it to say that their battles are going to be something memorable – potentially epic.

One man trying to get himself into the conversation is Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, who opened up over 100 meters in Doha on Friday. Running in a heat and a final Powell produced wind aided times of  9.75 (+2.6) and 9.81 (+2.3). Powell displayed what seems to be a change in technique as both races looked different than the typical Powell races of the past. Instead of the immediate burst from the blocks and shorter faster stride pattern over the first 60 meters, there was a more normal start and greater extension throughout the race. It seems that perhaps he is gearing his race to be more competitive with strong finishers Bolt and Gay. Powell was impressive winning against Nesta Carter (9.88), Travis Padgett (9.92) and Michael Frater (9.94) – but  then again it was Nesta Carter, Travis Padgett and Michael Frater. And when all are running near or better than their PR’s in May, we know the Doha surface and wind did their jobs – this is where Olusoji Fasuba ran the only 2 sub 10’s of his life including 9.85. So we will have to wait until we get a head to head with Powell and/or Gay to see if his technical changes are successful.

No need to wait to see how well David Rudisha (KEN) is going to fare this year. A 400 at the end of February saw him run 45.50 – awesome for an 800 meter man. His first 800 in March produced a 1:43.15. Friday in Doha he took to the track again and the results was 1:43.00. Rudisha is clearly in great shape and running confidently. As confidently as any half miler I’ve seen since WR holder Wilson Kipketer was flowing around the track in the late ‘90s’. Barring injury his next foray on the track will be something under 1:43 and one has to believe that having run 1:42.00 last year, at some point this summer we will see 1:41.xx. Definitely one of the most exciting athletes on the track.

Speaking of exciting athletes, did anyone else notice Oregon’s Ashton Eaton this weekend? In the hoopla over the sprinters the past few seasons many have forgotten that once upon a time the title of World’s Greatest Athlete used to be bestowed upon champion decathletes. Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner, Dailey Thompson, and Dan Obrien all evoked images of Superman. Well it’s still early in his young career, but Eaton could certainly put an “S” on his chest and I would support it. All he did at the Pac-!0 Championships – aside from winning the decathlon the week before – was run a heat of the 100 in 10.19 (+2.7) before taking second in the final in 10.33 (-1.1); win the 110 hurdles in 13.54 (-1..5); and win the long jump at 25’ 7.5”! Great performances all the way around.

He could have competition in the Superman department however, as on the other side of the country, Florida’s Christian Taylor won the triple jump (54’ 8.75”), took second in the long jump (26’ 10.5”) and finished off the meet with a leg on the winning 4x4 (3:02.69) – he’s run 45.55 in his only attempt at the open race this year – while competing in a meet marred by multiple delays and bad weather!

I mention these two “Supermen” because they are two of the most exciting collegiate athletes who just happen to be competing for what looks to be the two most powerful collegiate teams this year – Oregon and Florida. All of whom look to be on a collision course for the NCAA Championships this year. Both Oregon and Florida won their respective conferences this weekend (Pac-10 and SEC) and Eaton & Taylor are sure to play integral roles when everyone gets together in Eugene in early June.

There was lots of action at this weekend’s collegiate conferences. The link on the right for the USFTCCCA Conference Central will take you to all of the results, but in addition to Eaton and Taylor, I must mention the men’s 100 and 400 from the SEC meet. Inclement weather and several rain delays made things rough all the way around in this meet. Yet sprinter Jeff Demps (Florida) turned in a nation leading 10.06 in the 100. Demps is the National High School Record Holder (10.01) and appears to be back in form and on a roll this year! Hot high school sprinters have often had difficulty in college, but Demps looks to be breaking that stereotype. The men’s 400 had three freshmen finishing in the top four as Kirani James (Alabama, 45.01), Tavaris Tate (Mississippi St, 45.16) and Tony McQuay (Florida, 45.46) finished 1, 2 and 4 in the event. Four of the best young talents in the event who bear watching as the global landscape of the 400 is clearly changing. 

Next up will be the Diamond League’s Shanghai meet this next weekend. Below is a look at Tyson Gay’s sterling effort in the 200 meters.


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